GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — Police arrested a Great Falls woman on suspicion of felony endangerment in the death of her 10-month-old daughter, who prosecutors say had been exposed to methamphetamine and whose body was found in a “freezing cold” room in January.
Misty Marie Cutburth was arrested Thursday, the Great Falls Tribune reported.
Court records say the girl had been seen by a doctor on Jan. 7 for croup and had been prescribed steroids. She died five days later. The girl was not identified in court records.
An investigation has not been able to determine the girl’s cause of death, which complicated the charging process, County Attorney John Parker said.
“We have laws in the state of Montana to establish criminal liability for extreme child neglect, even when there is not medical evidence establishing an exact cause of death,” he said.
The investigation began when someone called 911 on Jan. 12 to report that a child was not breathing.
Responding officers found the baby unresponsive in a cold room where the window was wide open. A medical responder couldn’t register the girl’s skin temperature on a thermometer, court records said.
The girl and her 2-year-old sibling were covered in “white nail polish,” court records said. An autopsy determined the girl had eaten earring backs and sunflower seeds. Her hair samples indicated she had been exposed to chronic methamphetamine use in the final weeks of her life.
Cutburth’s boyfriend and his brother also were at the apartment. The brother told police that everyone in the home was an addict and that no one pays attention to the children, court records said.
The two men likely won’t face criminal charges, Parker said, because a Montana Supreme Court ruling determined that to charge criminal endangerment regarding a child, prosecutors have to establish a duty of care.
“They don’t have a legal duty of care,” Parker said.
Cutburth was scheduled to make an initial appearance Friday in District Court in Cascade County. Prosecutors said she would be appointed a public defender.
The Division of Child and Family Services did not immediately return an email request for comment on the child’s death.
GREAT FALLS – Misty Marie Cutburth of Great Falls is facing a criminal charge in connection with the January death of her 10-month old daughter.
Cutburth was charged on Thursday with one count of felony criminal endangerment.
On January 12th, police responded to a call of an unresponsive child at the apartment Cutburth shared with her two children and her boyfriend on the 600 block of 4th Avenue South.
The 911 caller, a neighbor, stated, “We’ve got a child that’s not breathing.”
The occupants of the apartment had conflicting stories about how the infant was found.
According to court documents, police say the room where the baby slept was “freezing cold,” and the window was found open. The outside temperature that night was approximately 32 degrees.
Medical personnel say the child’s body temperature did not register on the thermometer, which starts registering at 86 degrees.
She was pronounced dead at Benefis Health System hospital shortly after; the child’s surface temperature was reportedly 78 degrees.
An autopsy could not pinpoint a cause of death, but prosecutors say tests determined that she had been exposed to “chronic methamphetamine use” during the final weeks of her life.
Charging documents say Cutburth has a 2013 conviction for drug paraphernalia in Idaho, and the Montana Department of Family Services had been called to the home twice in October 2015 over concerns about the mother’s drug use.